I have a friend who —
OK, fine. It’s not a friend, It’s me. I’m not sure if I should be embarrassed or proud of the kinda-sorta juvenile workplace shenanigans I’m about to describe, but in the interest of making a larger point, here goes.
I once worked for a company that had a chair policy. If you were above a certain pay grade, your reward was a chair with armrests. Peons who didn’t earn enough risked falling off the sides of their seats.
Back then, I knew little about HR. I wasn’t yet versed in the power of phrases like “reasonable workplace accommodation” to annoy Linda from HR into granting certain requests (regardless of whether I technically needed an accommodation.)
So instead of asking for a chair with arms, I took one. I simply strolled into a nearby conference room and wheeled out a chair that allowed me to sit comfortably. Luxuriously. Like I finally made it in corporate America.
Then Chair Nazi came. Continue reading
Beware of people who say things like, “I’m the sort of person who likes to get things done.” They almost always make this remark when trying to impress an interviewer, colleague, or manager. The implication is that while all the losers around them are busy being losers, these are the stars of your organization. Often, though, they’re just jerks, or walking clichés at the very least.
The reality is that all of us like to accomplish things. That’s why I hate the term results-oriented to describe anyone.
Know what else I hate? Best practices. So you can imagine how I feel when I hear pundits, executives, and everyone else preach that a best practice for building a results-oriented workplace is to recognize employees who produce…results.
It’s a line that so many people repeat so many times that it’s easy to mistake it for a fact.
It’s actually an alternative fact, an opinion disfigured into a recommendation because it makes intuitive sense. If this seems intuitive to you, too, your intuition is fooling you.
Rewarded for Luck
A while back, I spoke to Michael Mauboussin, Credit Suisse’s head of global financial strategies and author of The Success Equation: Untangling Skill and Luck in Business, Sports, and Investing. He explained something that you probably already feel in your gut but might be too panicky, egotistical, or deluded to admit: Many of your achievements—the same ones that earn you praise (or punishment)—are largely beyond your control. Mauboussin explained:
There’s a continuum of things that are pure luck on one end and pure skill on the other. When your outcomes are truly a reflection of the work that you’re doing, a results-oriented evaluation is not unreasonable, like in manufacturing, which is very skills-oriented. But things like launching a successful R&D project are inherently probabilistic, with a lot of randomness and luck to them. There are profound influences that are hard to anticipate.
And get this: The higher you are on the ladder, the greater the role that luck plays in your work. You know what else grows with each rung? Compensation. All of which means that a four-leaf clover increasingly determines what you earn in cash and recognition as you move up a hierarchy. Continue reading